Test of Love

Test of Love

“Do not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. It is the Lord your God you should follow, and it is He that you should fear, it is His commandments that you should guard, and it is to His voice that you should listen and it is Him that you should serve and it is to Him that you should cleave” (Deuteronomy 13:4,5).

The Scriptures speak of the false prophet who performs miracles. We are commanded to disobey the false prophet. We are told to ignore the miracles produced by the false prophet. Those miracles are just a test; a test to see if we truly love God with all our hearts.

Why is this situation considered a test of love? Many false prophets lead people astray with confusion. They claimed that the worship that they are advocating is somehow worship of the One God of Israel (Exodus 32:4; 1Kings 12:28). It seems that the quality that would give us the strength to see through the claims of the false prophet would be clarity of mind. Clear knowledge that is solidly rooted in the theology of the Torah should help us overcome the persuasions of the dreamer of dreams. Why is the test of the false prophet considered a test of love?

For someone who loves, the answer to this question is obvious. If someone is presently experiencing God’s embrace in every breath and in every heartbeat they are not missing anything. If someone finds everything in God then the false prophet has nothing to offer. And everything is in God. God is the One we follow and there is nothing lacking in the journey that follows God. God is the One we fear and that awe and reverence is all-encompassing. His commandments are complete and perfect and His voice is everything we need to hear. We find all of life and love in His service and there can be nothing lacking in His embrace.

The false prophet and his emissaries have no one to talk to with the lover of God. It is for this reason that most Jews don’t open the door when Christian missionaries come knocking,

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Messiah – Letter and Spirit

Messiah – Letter and Spirit

The prophets of the Jewish Scriptures pointed mankind to a glorious future. They spoke about a future of peace and harmony, blessing and happiness together with a universal submission to God. And the prophets spoke about a Davidic king who will rule that utopian world.

The Christian religion is built on the belief that this king described by the Jewish prophets is actually one Jesus of Nazareth. The various Christian denominations have developed sophisticated theological lines of reasoning to justify their belief.

Jews who maintain loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob categorically reject the Christian claim.

There are two sides to this Jewish rejection of the Christian position. On the one hand, the Christian claim for Jesus has no basis in the letter of the Jewish Scriptures. Jesus did not fulfill one Messianic prophecy. The letter of the Bible does not allow the Jewish people to accept the claims of the Church (see http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/of-whom-speaketh-the-prophet/ ).

But this is only one side of Israel’s rejection of the Church’s claims for Jesus. Far more significant is the fact that the Messianic claims of the Church represent the very antithesis of the spirit of the prophetic hope for Messiah. This is not merely a matter of failing to conform to one specific prediction or another. The Christian position stands in direct opposition to the heart and soul of the prophetic concept of Messiah. The entire thrust of the Messiah of Scripture refutes the claims of the Church.

What is the spirit of the Messianic hope of the prophets? What is the spiritual purpose of the Messiah and what is the direction of his government?

The prophets made it abundantly clear that the end-purpose of history is that all mankind recognize and accept the absolute sovereignty of God. This recognition is the pinnacle of human achievement. The greatest success that an individual can achieve is complete submission to the authority of God and this is also the greatest success that human society as a whole can hope to achieve. And the prophets taught that humanity will ultimately attain this goal. There will yet come a day when every man woman and child that lives on this earth will stand together in joyous submission before the One God who Created us all.

The purpose of the Messiah is to lead humanity in this submission to God. In order to lead people in submission the Messiah will exemplify humility before God. As his ancestor David before him, the Messiah will express his own helplessness and poverty before God. The Davidic King will inspire all of mankind to join him in recognizing that every facet of existence a loving gift from God. The absolute submission towards God that abides in the heart of the Messiah will move all of mankind to bend their own hearts in acceptance of God’s sovereignty.

A man who emphasizes not his own poverty before God but rather his alleged superiority over other people is not a leader of submission. A man who draws attention to the supposed divide that separates him from other people is not going to teach mankind that everyone is equally indebted to God. A man who justifies devotion to himself on the basis of qualities that he allegedly possesses is not going to inspire people to recognize that finite existence possesses nothing before God. A man whose heart is facing humanity in demand of their worship cannot exemplify humility before the One who created the hearts of all men. Such a man is not a leader of submission to God; he is a leader of rebellion against God.

The real Messiah will not seek people’s worship and devotion; he will teach people that their hearts already belong to God. The real Messiah will point to the all-encompassing power of God; he will not preach about the supposed inability of God to forgive sin. The real Messiah will speak the praises of God with joy and enthusiasm; he will not speak about his own praises. The real Messiah will draw attention to his own utter helplessness before God; he will not obfuscate that truth with veiled claims to divinity. The real Messiah will be pained that people do not recognize that their very existence belongs to God, he will not rage when people do not acknowledge their “need” for his own services.

The Christian claim for the alleged Messiah-ship of Jesus is the direct opposite of everything the prophets taught us to hope for. This is not merely a matter of failing to conform to the letter of the Law. The Christian claim for Jesus stands in direct conflict with the spirit, the heart and the soul of the Messianic message of the Jewish Bible.

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Isaiah 2:22

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Isaiah 2:22

Many Christians have a difficult time understanding why it is that Jews view their faith in Jesus as idolatrous. Christians assert that Jesus is “one and the same” as the God of Israel. How could veneration of Jesus be considered idolatry?

It may come as a surprise to some Christians if they were to realize that many Jews have a difficult time understanding Christians. After everything is said and done, Christianity is pointing to a man, and calling him “god”. What else is there to discuss?

This article is written in an effort to help Christians see things from a Jewish perspective.

Imagine the following scenario.

 The Messianic era is here. God is revealed to all mankind. Every human being clearly sees that the One Creator of heaven and earth is the only true power. Everyone understands that every facet of existence is just an expression of His…

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Repentance

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Repentance

“Open for Me, My sister My beloved…” (Song of Songs 5:2)

“Said the Holy One, Blessed be He to Israel; My children, open for Me an opening of repentance like the eye of a needle, and I will open for you enormous doorways…” (Midrash)

“The eye of a needle is indeed small – but it penetrates through and through” (Kotzker Rebbe)

The Crown Prince was misbehaving. Actually, misbehaving is too mild a word. He was hanging out with the worst characters, he was spending time in the worst places and he was doing things that a Crown Prince shouldn’t even be thinking about. In short, things were terrible. His father, the King, had no choice but to banish his son from the palace.

The exiled prince continued in his rebellious ways. He wandered from one tavern to the next, he roamed from one province to the next until he found…

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From the Foundation Up, by Annelise

From the Foundation Up, by Annelise

 

Some people encounter Judaism and leave mainstream Christianity, but hold on to the Christian scriptures. They keep some Christian beliefs out of loyalty to their messiah. When the Orthodox Jewish community rejects them, they “identify with Yeshua’s suffering.” There are many different versions of following him like this away from the rest of the church.

 

 

 

Many of these groups explain their reading of ‘the Bible’ as uniquely important and different through the illustration of building a house. They feel that mainstream Christianity has tried to build the roof first and then get to the foundation. So they say that they now start with the ‘first testament’, the Hebrew scriptures, and only then interpret the ‘second testament’ (or ‘New Testament’), through the lens of Torah.

 

 

 

The problem is that interpretation, from the right perspective, is not even relevant until something is accepted as true from that perspective. They assume that when they go back to the foundations, they will be able to come back to the Christian scriptures and read its symbols and theology with a new light and deeper understanding. And they insist that when they start with the Torah, the New Testament intricately matches the context of Judaism in which it was originally written. They find it exciting to see the similarities, exploring the deeply important themes of Torah amidst a collection of new ideas.

 

 

 

Rather than starting with Torah, these readers are still starting with the belief that their sixty-six books are the ‘whole Bible’, and that the Torah, prophets, and other Hebrew writings are the foundational part of a bigger picture that they imagine. All the things that the original followers of Jesus/Yeshua learnt in their Jewish upbringing gave them language and symbols for what they wanted to say about their leader. So it is no wonder that the meanings of their New Testament are better understood by those who look at the historical and living Jewish culture and spiritual heritage. But being connected to the original ideas does not make a new one true.

 

 

 

What if the foundation could be built, in a living nation’s context, with no such preconception of the ‘roof’ in mind? Ideas that the ‘New Testament’ obsesses over would not come to mind at all; the entire claim would seem unnecessary, yet supported by mere shadows. We can explore two of the greatest themes of the Hebrew prophets to see this.

 

 

 

One thing these prophets thought and wrote about often was the complete difference between worshiping what is in the realm of earth and the sky, and on the completely opposite hand worshiping the maker of everything. This is how they defined true and false worship. But they never defined God.

 

 

 

Christians often feel that a difference between their faith and that of rabbinic Judaism is the ‘imagination if God’. Some have argued that worshiping ‘not-Yeshua’ could itself be considered idolatry, since they think that involved worshiping a false concept of the Creator. But this is a twisted portrayal of the prophetic terminology. While traditional Jews avoid imagining God, turning their hearts away from creation and their minds towards His actions when they pray, Christians have a concept or imagination of what God ‘is’. But He is incomparable even though He is close. Every image, every shape, every idea, every concept of relationship, every value that we can even begin to conceive is a part of His world, a reflection of His light; the heavens, the earth, and everything in them. That is the simple definition of what not to worship, and one who begins with Torah will not find or allow any blurring of this.

 

 

 

The world is an intimate gift from God, according to Judaism. He doesn’t need to ‘become part of it’ in order to be very close. His words and actions in the world are an expression of love and relationship, and there are many of these; all are His servants. Imagining God at all, even when saying that beyond a certain level it is a mystery, blatantly transgresses a deep value of those who begin with Torah. No matter how perfectly a reflection or manifestation of His love serves its purpose, it is part of creation. It can be in front of our eyes when we pray, but not in front of our hearts. Torah Judaism knows this.

 

 

 

A second emphasis of the Jewish Bible is that the Torah path already contains the path of righteousness, forgiveness, and devotion. A simple Jew who seeks to follow it and to love God does not need the messiah to help him access this. That king is a future hope of comfort for the community who follows the prophets’ clear warnings.

 

 

 

The Talmud, and other writings and teachings related to it, reflect the Torah observant community’s generation-to-generation record of what Torah involves in everyday life. Its experiences and intricacies of holiness, and the memories and debates that are attached to it, are all emphasised in the school system of a holy nation. And this love of God and what it means to live out His law with the fear of heaven, gradually becoming more and more noble in every action of life while keeping steady with the main things, is what the prophets were pointing to all along. The Torah observant community has preserved through history the only record of authoritative rulings from the judges and priests about how the Jewish community should keep Torah. Any Jew who focused first on Tanach would find their eyes drawn by all the prophets to the details and the spirit of the Torah, a complete and beautiful gift that is in reach even of the weakest person who desires God. Hope for restoration of the Temple, Israel, humanity, and creation is part of this picture, but the ‘need’ for something specifically like Christianity is not visible unless you already assume it is the next level and build your reading to match.

 

 

 

 

Christians believe that since no one is perfect in keeping God’s laws, either His laws to Israel or His expectation of humanity, justice must be served and someone sinless must die in place. This comes from an explanation developed by the early church, and taught to the world by the missionary Paul. But in all his honest psalms, King David never lamented that because no one had died in his place, he couldn’t imagine how God could forgive or help him. He just accepted the forgiveness and help offered by God in Torah. The Jewish scriptures don’t warn that a person who loves all their commandments and moulds their life around them might still be an enemy of God if they ignore a ‘second covenant’. Instead it points over and over to the path of life given by Moses, as if that already included God’s best for the nation and the world and even the possibility of healing and growth as a person keeps returning to the path.

 

 

 

If you truly begin with the foundation of the Hebrew scriptures, counting its own emphases as your emphases, and then look at the historical Jewish community, you will never come to the conclusion that among what they have yet to improve in observance is devotion to Jesus/Yeshua. Before giving labels of stubborn rebellion and tragic misguidance to Jews who have, through history, focused their lives on the details and spirit of Torah and built a Temple for God in their hearts, your reasons for thinking that they are rejecting parts of God’s own building must rest on more than shadowy links, verses with multiple readings, or circular logic. When the followers of your messianic claimant have spent the last two-thousand years worshiping him, even more so.

 

 

 

Devotion to God alone, which lies beneath the desire to take the Torah-observant Jewish testimony seriously, should give a person the strength to cling to God and have confidence that He will lead… from the foundation upward.

 

 

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Peace, Jerusalem, and David

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Peace, Jerusalem, and David

In the book of Deuteronomy God commands Israel to establish righteous judges (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). Immediately thereafter we are enjoined not to plant an idolatrous tree near the altar, nor to designate a “matzevah” (- a single stone) for ourselves as this is something that God hates (Deuteronomy 16:21,22).

The association between justice and the altar is not coincidental; it is also found in the book of Exodus where certain laws pertaining to the altar are presented and immediately thereafter we are instructed concerning matters of justice (Exodus 20:21 – 21:1). What is this connection between justice and the altar? And why does God hate the “matzevah”? Didn’t our forefather Jacob offer to God on a “matzevah” (Genesis 28:18)?

A civilization is not a group of people that happen to be living in the same geographical area. Civilization is only achieved when the group of people coordinates…

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Noachide Worship by Jim

Noachide Worship by Jim

 

Con,

 

Sometimes people look for more to serving God than is necessary. They want special rituals, a formula, something to raise their emotions and make them feel closer to God, whether or not they are actually closer to God. The desire to fulfill this religious emotion has led to great errors. People replace truth with “spirituality”, and invest themselves in all sorts of false practices that make them feel spiritual, closer to the divine, or “one with the universe”. Instead of getting closer to God, however, most of these practices take one further from God and into serving the product of one’s imagination.

 

This is a difficulty for many people. I have met Noachides who do not feel that there is enough service to God in obeying his commands. The fact that the Universal Laws are mostly, although not entirely, prohibitions, leaves some Noachides with a sense that they count less than the Jewish people, who have been given specific practices. The restraints placed upon their lives do not feel like service to them, and some have been tempted to create their own forms of worship. However, doing so does not bring one actually closer to God; it only placates the religious emotion. Sadly, they have not understood that adherence to the Universal Laws is service to God.

 

One may keep the Laws in one of two ways, incidentally or intentionally. When one keeps them incidentally, he does not observe the Laws because they are God’s Laws, but because society accepts them, or he fears reprisal if he breaks them, or he finds them sensible. He may, for example, refrain from stealing, because he understands that no society can exist when people do not respect the property rights of others. This self-restraint he practices is good, but he does not do it to keep God’s Law. He has only kept God’s Law incidentally.

 

One keeps the Laws intentionally when he does so because they are God’s Laws. Keeping the Universal Laws takes on the character of obedience to God. His self-restraint takes on the character of righteousness. And when he reflects on the Laws and sees that his actions submit him to the expressed will of God, he does not need to invent a service to perform for God. He is not seeking to titillate his own emotions; he is seeking to follow the Command of God. Such a man will not denigrate them because they are prohibitions. He knows that no Law authored by God is inferior.

 

On the other hand, some will feel that because they already do not steal that there is nothing special in not stealing. These have not avoided theft because of God’s command. Their actions are not devoted to God. Their self-restraint is not an act of devotion to God. They have not spent time thinking about these acts as obedience. They are too busy looking for something they can perform for God. What they do not realize is that God needs nothing, and there is nothing they can do for Him. They can only do what He has required.

 

Such people are like a husband who knows that his wife would appreciate him not leaving wet towels on the floor, taking off muddy boots before he comes in, and the like, but he does not do these small things that would show consideration of her feelings. He is always looking for some big gesture that will make him feel pleased with himself for his grandiosity. It is not her feelings with which he is concerned; it is his own.

 

Such people sometimes look to emulate the Jewish people. They feel that they have been denied something in lacking practice. They adopt Jewish practice, and it makes them feel good. And it is easy, because it is not required of them. They do it because they want to do it. But if it were to become a command to them, they would become rebellious. Once it becomes a requirement, the natural human propensity to resist command kicks in. They do not find themselves so pleased by the same actions as when it was not required.

 

If only they had sought to please God and not themselves, they would have been enriched by His Commands. They would become mindful of even minor violations. They would avoid taking extra ketchup packets from fast food restaurants when they have none at home, because they wish to obey God. To guard themselves, they would study the details of His Laws, and be mindful of them at all times. Their minds would be turned to God constantly. If they take on more commands later, it will be with wisdom, studied and thoughtful, mindful of their God, not attempting to please themselves. They would seek to understand His Torah, and not look for an interpretation that fit their philosophy. They would submit their judgment to His.

 

Such being the case, they will find that the prohibitions of the Universal Law are fulfilling. They are not without power to bring one close to God. Those Laws allow humanity to honor God daily. They may not give one an ecstatic experience, but they are the mark of devotion. And no Noachide who truly keeps the Seven Laws need ever feel like they are lesser children.

 

Con,

 

I have identified a source of error. I am not passing judgment on those who find dissatisfaction with the Seven Laws. Those who have come out of a prior religion, in particular, are bound to grope with the need to fill in a void. They are used to performing particular acts, many of which they have just renounced. Moreover, those things pleased the emotions. And now they have seemingly nothing to please the emotions. There is nothing nefarious in this. I am not judging people. It is, however, a source of error.

 

To correct the error, we must understand that the Laws given to us are good and by fulfilling them we are living a life of devotion. And that life is not one designed specifically to appeal to our emotions. Still, I think that anyone who understands those commandments, who turns his attention to the Creator will find himself fulfilled emotionally, for he will have directed his energies to something real.

 

I think if you will reread your comment to me, you will see that you have illustrated my point. You write that all the prayers of thanks on the holidays regard Israel. The poor Noachide who has this attitude is asking God, “What have you done for me lately?” Of course he should be offering his gratitude to God on behalf of the good given him by God. Is there any human who brought himself into existence? When I prayed this morning, I thanked Hashem for my wife and children, and the life that we have together. What human being can find himself contemplating his very existence and complain that God did not part the waters for my fathers? Let him thank God for his previous breath.

 

A Noachide who feels that God has done nothing for him does not truly understand the situation at all. I can find no reason for jealousy in the Noachide chest. And yet, I do give thanks for the things God did for Israel. I am very thankful for the nation that has preserved the knowledge of God in the world while my ancestors followed after their vain imaginations. I am thankful for that priestly nation which has carried the Torah, a burden made heavy by the nations who oppressed them. So yes, I offer thanks for God’s preservation of Israel, because it has redounded to my good. Let no Noachide feel inferior for having no national miracle, for every miracle performed for Israel has benefited us.

 

Let those who wish to convert, convert. It is a good thing. I said nothing against those who wish to convert. But if they wish to convert, I hope it is not because they feel less than the Jew. The Jewish people have performed a valuable service for us. We should give them our gratitude, not our envy. Let those who wish to convert do it for love. I write nothing against conversion, but like anything else in life, if done for the wrong reasons, it will not benefit the convert. He is likely to find himself eventually dissatisfied.

 

I could not write against conversion, for I and my family wish to convert as well. But if ever we want to do it because we think that it is not “good enough” to be Noachides, then let it not happen. If we do it because we feel envious that others have Pesach, tefillin, or mezuzot, may we never convert. If we don’t do it for love of God, love of Torah, and love of the Jewish people, may it never happen.

 

But please do not think that because I identify the source of error means that I think ill of people. Every human I have ever met has made mistakes. Most of the big one’s to which I have been witness, I have also been the source. But when we recognize an error, we must take steps to correct it. The Noachide who feels he cannot draw close to God through the Noachide Laws does not yet understand them properly.

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